Sunday, 22 February 2015

Jim's column 21.2.15

Alan Clowes posed a good question to me after reading my piece about Coventry City's friendly games against Morton in 1964-65 that mentioned City's great goalkeeper Bill Glazier. Alan was a big fan of Bill & remembers him playing for Crystal Palace at Highfield Road & letting in five goals.

The game in question was the opening game of the 1963-64 season. City beat Palace (with Bill in goal) 5-1 with Ronnie Farmer bagging a hat-trick. Ron was playing at right half back & scored two penalties & from a direct  free-kick and still relates the tale that after the game he tried to claim the match-ball but Jimmy Hill wouldn't let him have it, arguing that it 'wasn't a proper hat-trick'.
Alan asked me to confirm that Ron only ever missed one penalty kick in his time at the club – it was at Millwall, later that season when he beat the 'keeper but the ball hit the post and in total scored 22 in league & cup games.

Bill Glazier joined City from Palace in October 1964 for a world record fee for a goalkeeper of £35,000. He had made over 100 appearances for Palace & had helped them to promotion to Division Two with the Sky Blues the previous season. He went on to make 402 first team appearances over a wonderful 10-year career at Coventry.

Talking about the 1960s, a golden period in the club's history, I have heard from Keith Ballantyne with his interesting memories of the catering at Highfield Road in that era.

He wrote: 'When I started going to Highfield Road with my parents around 1963, the 'Sky Blue Revolution' was well under way. Something we took for granted was 'Wal's Mobile Catering', which consisted of men in sky blue jackets and trousers with what I assume was an insulated container strapped to their back walking around the pitch before the game. You could buy hot pies from them and tea / coffee, there being a tap / spout arrangement either side of the container. To this day I have never seen anything like this at any type of sporting or entertainment event, and was wondering if it was one of the many minor yet pioneering and unique facets of the 'Hill Revolution', and when it was discontinued?'

I remember Wal's catering with his novel method of serving food & drink. It almost had a feel of an American sporting event in the way he went to the customers to save them going to the kiosks & queuing for their pie & hot drink. This week I was looking through some City programmes from 1975-76 season & came across an interesting snippet of news which goes some way to helping Keith's investigation. One programme states:


Cater Sport run by two of our old friends Wal & Reg Campbell (Wal is still mine host at the Sky Blue in Coundon) have taken over the catering on the ground bars and West Stand, and Sky Blue Stand. Wal & Reg have been connected with the club for many years and we feel sure they will again offer a second to none service. Catering in the Main Stand & Main Stand bars is still being organised within the club's own catering network.

Keith subsequently responded:

I think the hot tea and coffee tanks were in the lower part of the container they had strapped to their backs, and the pies kept warm above from the rising heat in their own container. A simple and ingenious arrangement, but I can't for the life of me remember how they got each pie out without unstrapping the whole contraption and lowering it to the ground, or maybe they did ? As he was a denizen of the licensed trade, I wonder if he was the same Wal who was running the Navy Club in Spon Street in the early 1970's?

Does anyone have anything to add to Wal's story?

Simon Shaw is one of the organisers of the Earlsdon Festival & has been in contact regarding a special match played at Highfield Road 100 years ago. On Sunday 26 April this year's Earlsdon Festival will be launched with a special event to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers being billeted in Coventry (11 January - 15 March 1915) and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli (25 April 1915) where most of them would sadly lose their lives.

The Lord Mayor of Coventry and Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's Ambassador to the UK, are attending the event as the guests of honour.

The battalion was almost 1,000 strong when it arrived in Coventry and most of the men made their way to billets in Earlsdon and Chapelfields. Despite their short stay, a strong and genuine bond was formed between the soldiers and their hosts.

The Munsters, playing in khaki shirts & white shorts and looking 'a tough lot', faced Coventry City in a friendly game at Highfield Road on Saturday 23 January 1915. The Bantams won the match 8-3 in front of a crowd of around 700 people with Allan (3), Dobson (3), Morris and Turner netting for City.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Jim's column 14.2.15

On Tuesday evening the Sky Blues' shrinking attendance fell to a new 50-year low with only 6,885 fans paying for the privilege of watching another poor home performance against Scunthorpe. The attendance was the lowest for a league game in the city since Easter Monday 1962 when 5,965 turned up for a 1-1 draw with Bristol City. The circumstances of that game are interesting however. Jimmy Hill had taken over as manager the previous November but his honeymoon period was over & his early impact on the team's fortunes had petered out. The side had won just once in six games & a final position well below halfway in the old Division Three was certain. A crowd of almost 14,000 had watched his first home game but the disillusioned fans had drifted away & only one of the previous five home games had attracted over 9,000. The Port Vale home game a week earlier had attracted 5,894.

Hill had his plans & was on the verge of the inspired signings of Willie Humphries & John Sillett but the fans had little or no inkling that the most exciting period in the club's history was just around the corner. Now, 53 years later, few City fans would dare to think things will change so dramatically at the club.

The even more worrying statistic is the club's average attendance this season. Even with the inflated crowd of 27,000 for the Gillingham game, the average is currently 9,320. With gates unlikely to improve between now & the end of the season, the final figure will be lower not higher. Leaving aside last season at Northampton, that average is the worst in the club's Football League history. Only twice since 1919 has the average fallen below 10,000, in 1925-26 & 1927-28 seasons. In 1925-26 the team were playing their first and only season in Third Division North, having been relegated from Division Two the previous year. They went from playing teams like Chelsea, Wolves & Manchester United to facing tiny clubs such as New Brighton, Ashington, Nelson & Durham City. Gates started at the 15,000 level but despite remaining unbeaten at home in 16 games up to the end of March crowds dwindled, especially after Christmas and there were several crowds under 6,000 with the lowest 4,744 to see a 5-2 victory over Hartlepool in the final home game. The average was 9,505. Two years later, with the team now switched to Division Three South the crowds peaked at 15,000 for the visit of Plymouth in September but were under 9.000 by Christmas. The average was skewed somewhat by a Monday afternoon game in February when 2,059, the lowest ever league crowd at Highfield Road, watched a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. The side won only five home games all season and finished 20th of 22 teams with a final average attendance of 9,388. At the moment that is the lowest average in club's league history (barring Northampton). That record will go this season.

Interestingly the lowest post-war average was in 1982-83 when, at the all-seater stadium Dave Sexton's side averaged 10,552.

Lifelong City fan Dave Long asked me to provide the details of the FA Youth Cup final game against Arsenal in 2000. It was his daughter Esme's first trip to Highfield Road.

It was the first leg of the two legged final & City were in the final for the second year running, having lost to West Ham the previous year. The game took place on 4 May 2000 and the teams lined up as follows:
City: Gary Montgomery: Richard Spong, Daniel Hall, Craig Strachan, Calum Davenport, Tom Cudworth, Lee Fowler, Robert Betts, Gary McSheffrey, Simon Parkinson (sub Jason Ashby), Craig Pead (sub Martin Grant).

Arsenal: Graham Stack: Israel da Silva, Nicolo Galli, Liam Chilvers, John Halls, Steve Sidwell, Rohan Ricketts, David Noble, Jerome Thomas, Jay Bothroyd, Graham Barrett.

Arsenal, coached by former City manager Don Howe, were without their star player, Jermaine Pennant, allegedly a £2m signing from Notts County the previous year, but still fielded eleven youth internationals. City, coached by Richard Money, started strongly but were undone by three Arsenal goals in 21 minutes after half-time. Thomas, Barrett and Sidwell netted & although Gary McSheffrey scored a late goal it was a comfortable victory in front of 10,280.

In the second leg at Highbury the following week Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from Bothroyd & Sidwell to lift the trophy 5-1 on aggregate. Messrs Bothroyd, Barrett & Ricketts all subsequently played for the Sky Blues. Of the excellent young Arsenal side only Barrett, Pennant & Ricketts appeared in an Arsenal league line-up – and none of them made more than 12 appearances – whilst only Bothroyd & Barrett won full caps for their country. Six of the Coventry side made it through to the first-team with McSheffrey & Davenport having successful careers.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Jim's column 7.2.15

John Woodfield, a City fan who has followed City since the 1950s & sits behind me at games, wanted information about friendly games played at Highfield Road in the 1960s against Scottish club Greenock Morton. In the 1960s Morton (as they were then known) were the up and coming Scottish club & often referred to as the Scottish Sky Blues because of their innovative ideas and modern thinking. In 1964 as the Sky Blues were winning the Third Division, Morton were winning promotion to the top flight in Scotland for the first time in 12 years & had a deadly striker called Allan McGraw who scored 51 goals.

Morton boss Hal Stewart apparently rang Jimmy Hill to suggest that the clubs play a couple of friendlies & that someone might put up a trophy. Unfortunately it was impossible to get permission for another competition so JH called the game at Highfield Road in October 1964, the first leg of the unofficial 'Most Progressive Clubs Cup'. The game took place just a week after the signing of goalkeeper Bill Glazier for a world record £35,000. Glazier had made his debut at Portsmouth three days earlier but his first appearance at Highfield Road attracted a crowd of 17,029. Morton, despite being without the goal-machine McGraw, raced into a two goal lead & it wasn't until the last 20 minutes that City got their act together with John Mitten & George Hudson netting to rescue a draw.

The clubs had the re-match at Morton's Cappielow Park in March 1965, won 3-1 by Morton who included four Danish players including international Kai Johansen, a real novel signing in those days.

In November 1966 Morton returned to Highfield Road for another friendly. The Sky Blues were struggling to live up to their billing as Second Division promotion favourites & lay sixth in the table having already lost six out of 18 league games & exited the League Cup to Third Division Brighton. Three days earlier Hill had recalled Ian Gibson after six weeks in the reserves & the irrepressible Scot had dazzled in a 3-2 win over Cardiff. Only 4,098 fans turned up on a bitterly cold night to see a relatively young Sky Blues team inflict only Morton's second defeat of the season. JH gave debuts to Willie Carr & Trevor Shepherd alongside other inexperienced youngsters Peter Thomas, Mick Coop & John Burckitt. Gibbo was in devastating form, setting up the first two goals for Ronnie Rees & Shepherd with Bobby Gould heading the third in the 3-2 victory. The following Saturday the Sky Blues won 3-1 at Molineux & set off on a 24 game unbeaten run that went through to the end of the season & the club's promotion to Division One for the first time. John says that Morton playing in a fluorescent orange kit which was very unusual at the time & has stuck in his memory almost 50 years later.

My colleagues on the Telegraph Sports Desk unearthed a lovely old photograph of another friendly game from August 1983 against the Zimbabwe national team. It had been the summer of hell for new manager Bobby Gould since his arrival in May. Seven first team players, including Mark Hateley, Danny Thomas & Gary Gillespie, had rejected new contracts & left the club & Bobby had the task of rebuilding the playing staff. He signed eleven players & gave trials to several others. The game against Zimbabwe was fulfilling a reciprocal agreement following City's tour of the African country the previous May & gave the fans (around 3,000) an opportunity to see some of the new faces. As it turned out only three of the new signings started the game & one of those, Charlie George, would have his trial ended soon afterwards without playing a competitive game.
                                              City v Zimbabwe 1983

The Sky Blues lined up as follows: Perry Suckling: Peter Hormantschuk, Brian Roberts, Martin Singleton, Ian Butterworth, Steve Jacobs, Dave Bennett, Gerry Daly, Charlie George, Terry Gibson,
Keith Thompson. Goalkeeper Tim Dalton, Steve Hunt, Derek Hall & newcomer Graham Withey came on as second half substitutes & goals from Withey & George gave City a 2-0 victory. City fans would have to wait a little longer to see other new signings such as Ashley Grimes, Micky Adams, Micky Gynn, Dave Bamber & Trevor Peake.

The question on social media last Saturday evening after the 2-2 draw with Rochdale was when was the last time two loan players scored on their Sky Blues debut. I was amazed that so many people (including some of the local media men) had forgotten that it was just over a year ago that Chris Dagnall & Chris Maguire scored the goals in City's 3-1 victory at MK Dons. Both those players left soon afterwards and neither scored again for the club. Let's hope the same fate does not afflict Messrs Samuel & Odelusi. This season has now seen four players scoring on their debut with Reda Johnson (v Bradford C) & Frank Nouble (v Gillingham) the others.

Thomas Murden asked me what the highest number of drawn games in a season is for Coventry City. He wonders that with nine draws already whether the tem might be close to a record. The answer is we are some way off the record of 17 set in 1962-63 (Jimmy Hill's first full seasonin charge). Those 17 came in 46 games but the highest percentage of drawn games came in 1997-98 when Gordon Strachan's side drew 16 out of 38 games. The Sky Blues finished 11th that season, their highest final position in the last 25 years & if just half of those drawn games had been won they would have finished fifth, one point outside the Champions League places.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Jim's column 31.1.15

Fellow Coventry City historian Dean Nelson posted an interesting picture on Twitter this week. He had acquired an aerial photograph of Highfield Road taken in 1953 & there are no sign of any floodlights. Dean wondered when the club first installed lights & who were the opponents for the first game under them.
                                               Aerial photo of Highfield Road 1953

The club unveiled their first floodlight system in October 1953. It consisted of wooden poles, each topped with a pair of large bulbs, and pairs of similar bulbs attached to the roof of the two stands parallel with the touchlines. In total, approximately 48 lights illuminated the pitch. According to the club’s accounts, published in April 1954, the system cost £3,967. Floodlights were all the craze, and City were one of the first clubs outside London to install them. In the same month several other clubs inaugurated their lights, among them Manchester City, Luton, Wolves and Bury. For their first floodlit game, City invited Scottish club Queen of the South to Highfield Road. The programme makes quaint reading: ‘Opinions differ regarding the permanency of floodlight football, but we believe there is a great future in this type of entertainment. And why not? Does it not give us the opportunity of allowing our supporters to see the best teams, not only in Great Britain, but also Continental teams of repute. We realise that only the best will continue to attract, and it will be our endeavour to bring teams that under normal circumstances would not be seen in Coventry. What a start we have made! Queen of the South, Wolverhampton Wanderers and East Fife.’
                                            City's first floodlights from a game in 1956-57

Such opponents would not inspire awe today, but back then all three were attractive teams. Wolves led the First Division at the time. Queen of the South had been fixtures in the Scottish First Division (the top division) for almost twenty years and were current League leaders. East Fife had finished third in the Scottish League two years running and recently lifted the Scottish League Cup. For both teams it was their first experience of playing under artificial lights. In his match report in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, ‘Nemo’ wrote: ‘the players had no difficulty in following the flight of the ball under the artificial lighting, and the spectators found it equally easy to follow the play.’ Queens manager, however, said his goalkeeper had occasional difficulty with high crosses. A crowd of 16,923 paid to watch, several hundred more than had attended the previous league game at the ground. The game ended 1-1, with a fourth-minute Don Dorman header being the first goal under the lights, and a Scottish equaliser three minutes later.

A week later 18,680 attended the second floodlit match, against Wolves. The First Division leaders, playing in their famous old gold shirts, fielded eight of their previous Saturday’s First Division side, but the three absent were their England international stars, captain Billy Wright and wingers Jimmy Mullen and Johnny Hancocks. Wright was no doubt resting ahead of the forthcoming international with Hungary which would prove to be a pivotal game in English football history. Wolves took things gently but City wanted a big scalp and won through Iain Jamieson’s penalty.

The lights soon became superceded technically and in 1957 they were replaced by four giant pylons at each corner of the ground.

Chris Lambert posed an interesting question. He had acquired a copy of former Leeds & England manager Don Revie's book (Soccer's Happy Wanderer) published in 1955 & sent me a picture of Revie scoring against City. Chris says that the book claims it is the only goal at Highfield Road, which makes it sound like the winning goal, but Chris thinks it is Hull's only reply to four City goals, in 1950-51. Chris is correct, the game took place on 10 March 1951 & City won 4-1 with goals from Bryn Allen (2), Ken Chisholm & Ted Roberts in front of 22,650.

Chris wondered how many other future England managers have scored against City at Highfield Road. He thinks Kevin Keegan & Glen Hoddle managed it.

Revie actually scored three goals at Highfield Road, for Leicester in their 2-1 win in 1948, the above goal and again for Hull in 1951-52 when the Tigers won 4-1. Alf Ramsey, Ron Greenwood & Terry Venables all played at Highfield Road but never scored.

Glen Hoddle scored a penalty for Tottenham at Highfield Road in Spurs' 3-2 victory in 1985-86.
Kevin Keegan scored there for Liverpool in a 1-1 draw in 1974-75 & for Southampton in 1981-82 in a 2-4 defeat to the Sky Blues.

Peter Hill's funeral service takes place at Canley Crematorium this coming Monday 2 February at 11.15am.